This Just In. Content is King. Again

Posted on August 15, 2008 by Tony Uphoff

Content is king. Again. Every time we forget this law of media physics it comes back to remind us. Sometimes the hard way. Need proof ? Take a look at the ratings for the ultimate reality programming the Olympic Games. Far exceeding even NBC's estimates, the Beijing Games coverage once again reminds us that if you provide great content, people will turn on their televisions. Need more proof?

How about movies? In a model many had written off as one in permanent decline, movie attendance is about to match if not exceed last summer's total, which set an all time record. We're also seeing an assault on the all time box office champ Titanic, by this summer's hit Batman: The Dark Knight.

Everyone laughed when Steve Jobs first described his vision for iTunes and his new device the iPod. No one is laughing today. Digital music sales this year are predicted to hit $1.8 Billion. CD sales in a death spiral? You bet. Don't mistake a format shift and lack of business model adaptation however for a shift in how content is valued. Anyone heard from Sean Fanning lately?

But wait just a second. In the Internet era aren't we seeing a steep decline in paid content as the model rapidly shifts to free content that is monetized via advertising? Here's a great trivia question, what's a larger market, global consumer spending on media or the global advertising spend? As my pals at PWC will tell you, the 2007 stats show the consumer spend on media at $930 Billion (growing at 5.6% CAGR) dwarfs the global ad spend of $473 Billion. One more a bit closer to home. Last month in over 100 degree temps in Las Vegas 4,000+ people paid to attend our Black Hat Conference representing a 15% + increase year on year. Oh yea and in case you haven't heard, the global economy is troubled. Content my friends is still king.

Ahh but what has changed is the nature of content you say? User driven content, search driven content, vendor driven content, community content and the mash up of all of these represent the "new content". Without question we are seeing the fusion of media and technology fuel new uses and applications of content. We are seeing new media applications emerge that we never imagined and more being introduced every day. But content from multiple sources in flexible formats is not new.

The very first trade show (live media is inarguably the oldest form of media) I went to was some 20 years ago. I walked into the hall and saw literally every vendor I could imagine, easily accessible in a searchable, organized format that allowed me to find them by category, name or location. They even gave me this cool book that allowed me to learn more about them, sort them and categorize them myself if I wanted (this was called search btw). I walked into an IBM booth and sat in on their presentation. As the spokesperson started the pitch (this was called vendor content btw) the guy next to me leaned over and said “this is all a bunch of BS…IBM doesn’t really offer this solution they just want us to think they do…” (this was called user content btw). I then walked into a conference track put together by the show producer and listened to a presentation by a renowned market expert (this was called editorial content btw). From there I went to get something to eat and while looking for a place to sit, joined a table with a group engaged in an animated conversation about a new technology that had been introduced that morning at the show (this was called community btw). Later that night I was invited to an invitation only party hosted by a content brand (this was called gated or premium content btw).

So is there anything new going on here? Absolutely. The Web has turbo charged the ability to find, personalize, customize, engage with and distribute content and has irrevocably revolutionized the media landscape. Web based technology has also added a level of contextual functionality that is mind blowing. Today if you aren't providing enhanced levels of context to your content by leveraging the tools available, your audience will create it themselves or find another provider who will. It used to be said that "content is king and distribution the power behind the throne". Distribution is a commodity in a web based world. It's ubiquitous. Today "content is king and context, the power behind the throne".

For media today success is about the integration of content assets; editorial content, vendor content and user generated content, in all formats, with the applications that will enable deeper levels of context. This ability has become a required core competency for the media brands and companies that look to dominate the next phase of media. A new model for media companies? Yes and one that is not easy by any measure. The source code today however is what it's always been. Quality content.

So what's your take? Content still king or is there a new and future king on the media horizon?,

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